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Hardware Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Tianium HD Review

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by arcticstoat, 17 Jan 2011.

  1. Zaim

    Zaim New Member

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    There cards are good, no doubt about that, the problem is there rubbish drivers, this card has been out for ages and there still isn't a official driver out lol.

    The real shocking thing is this card doesn't even support DTS or DD decoding, that is something cheaper cards do and a £160 doesn't have it. makes no sense.

    The Asus D2X (or what ever is newer) is on my list to purchase when my X-FI dies.
     
  2. Deders

    Deders Well-Known Member

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    Audio can be very subjective, it really depends on what you are used to and what expectations you have. This is why some people prefer vinyl to cd's.

    Audiophiles will often rate a completely flat frequency response to be the best sounding, this ideal comes from recording studio's where they will go to great lengths to mix tracks with a flat sound so that any unwanted frequencies can be easily identified and sorted out. All this is done knowing in the back of their heads that most people will be using cheap stereos with the bass boost on full, if they mixed it with too much bass in the first place it would blow too many speakers.

    It's actually virtually impossible to get a completely flat frequency response when you take into account the entire audio chain from whatever hardware it's outputting from through the amplifier, speakers and earphones will help shape the sound and even the acoustics from the environment it's played in.

    Most of my friends don't pay as much attention to or appreciate sound quality as I do, but even I will use an eq in certain situations to shape the sound to what I'm used to hearing. Also my personal taste in earphones leans towards a warmer less clinical sound so I'd be shunned from any audio purist community.

    It took me a while to get used to the sound of a particular album that has just ben re-mastered because I was so used to the original mix. At first it sounded harsh but after several listens i've grown to prefer the new mix over the old one.

    if audio wasn't subjective then why do modern soundcards give you the option to remove and change the hardware pre-amps to your particular taste?
     
  3. memeroot

    memeroot aged and experianced

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    I have to admit i personally like the sound of old speakers and amps... sounds 'fuller'

    hence a quad and some 10k 1979 reference speakers mmmm bliss.
     
  4. Repo

    Repo New Member

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    I've tried several Creative Labs sound cards (X-Fi Music, Xi-Fi Xtreme, Audigy 2 ZS, etc, etc) and for HTPC and music use I couldn't really tell the difference between them and the inbuilt Realtec through Coax.

    Maybe it's just me but when the outputs going through a few grand of AV kit you really ought to be able to hear an improvement over onboard sound!
     
  5. Deders

    Deders Well-Known Member

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    I could hear the difference immediatly, but then onboard audio has improved since I last used it.
     
  6. kornedbeefy

    kornedbeefy New Member

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    Not sure if it's been mentioned but along with a good sound card you need good speakers and or headphones. I tried the onboard audio during an upgrade and was seriously disappointed after reading so often that onboard is good enough for gaming.

    I'm currently using an Auzentech X-Fi and the sound from games is fantastic. When I first bought it while playing one night I actually jumped out of my chair due to hearing a scuffling sound on the ground behind me.. Turned out to be some animal in the game behind me.

    in case your wonder I switch between Logitech 5300e 5.1 and Senheiser HD555
     
  7. Cleggmeister

    Cleggmeister Of reasonable knowledge...

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    Audio performance subjective? No, I'm sticking to my guns! :)

    When a piece of music is recorded we assume that the musicians, engineers, producers, etc... know what they're doing. This doesn't apply to Phil Collins of course...

    Unless we are present in the recording and hear the live performance or studio master, we have no idea as to the values of production - the timbre, colour, levels, etc... We don't know whether the band is looking for a "warm" or a "clinical" sound, a wide soundstage or a narrow one.

    The output from this recording session - the track that's mastered onto vinyl, CD or whatever is our point of reference. When this recording is played back through a soundcard or a piece of hifi it will likely sound different from the studio master. This difference determines the quality of your playback device - the closer the sound to the original the better your playback device is. Yes, many "audiophiles" talk in terms of sound tonality, colour, and other subjective terms but this misses the point. Audio quality, which is what stirs human emotion and makes music so important to our race, is simply the degree of accuracy to the original production. The more accurate the better the sound, and the more closely the band or artist is communicating with the listener.

    Agreed lots of people (including myself) often prefer vinyl to CD. That is an objective difference - analogue recordings contain a theoretical infinite amount of information, although modern record players still cannot extract all of this information from the groove. Our estimates indicate we're not even getting 50% of the music from the LP, even with incredibly precise engineering in the turntable. Now bear in mind a CD can only hold c800Mb of data, hence it's a lossy, compressed format - it's just not as compressed as an MP3 say. It's bound to sound worse than a record as it holds less musical information.

    More recently the actual studio master recordings have been made available by artists and can be played back on suitable equipment (like this soundcard). This is where digital recordings can equal and surpass analogue recordings - typically a studio master recording contains four times more data than a CD (24/96 vs 16/44.1). We recently invested a huge amount in new microphones and ADCs, and now record directly to hard disc at 24/192. Absolutely staggering when you hear how much you've been missing!

    Try it yourself - read a little about something we call the "Tunedem" here - http://www.linn.co.uk/how_to_judge_a_system

    Now download some free music from www.linnrecords.com at different resolutions - try CD vs Studio Master. You'll hear the difference so long as your playback equipment can resolve the extra information.

    Anyway, enough from me just now. I'm not an audiophile or a hifi geek. I'm a music lover, so I'm off to listen to some music :)
     
  8. kornedbeefy

    kornedbeefy New Member

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    correction...it wasn't the Auzentech X-Fi it was a Creative Soundblaster X-Fi
     
  9. HourBeforeDawn

    HourBeforeDawn a.k.a KazeModz

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    to be honest Im surprised this company is still in business...

    Anyhow Im happy with my ASUS Xonar D2X

    I do have a question and Im not sure if it was covered but why do all these cards have a cap of 192khz for the sample rate?
     
  10. Cleggmeister

    Cleggmeister Of reasonable knowledge...

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    192 is generally regarded as being the optimum quality rate most humans can perceive - in theory you wouldn't be able to hear an improvement when listening to recordings made at a higher sample rate. But then, they said that about 44.1k when marketing the idea of CD...
     
  11. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    Drivers for your card just in case
    I had a quick look at the Creative website and I can't believe it - they actually only have beta drivers for this card :duh: .
     
  12. HourBeforeDawn

    HourBeforeDawn a.k.a KazeModz

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    so what about say Blu-Ray movies those are normally at a higher rate? or am I mixing information? Im reading up on the Audio side and just want to get things worked out in terms of understanding. ^^;;
     
  13. Xlog

    Xlog Active Member

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    This,
    the last article that resembled a review was about Xonar DX in 2008, every sound card "review" after that could be described as press release with personal opinion strapped to the end.
     
  14. Deders

    Deders Well-Known Member

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    Sorry for nitpicking but as an experienced audio engineer it is quite possible to evaluate mixing techniques from a recording, even some of the recording equipment/effects used, especially when it is played back on high quality equipment.

    One of the worst mistakes that can me made when recording and mixing is letting the band dictate the mixing process as the producer/engineers will have a much better idea of what will sound best. It's a case of letting the musicians do what they do best and same for the engineers.

    That aside, the warmth/clinicalness and soundstage is dictated by the audio equipment the listener is playing the track on. For example until I got my latest pair of earphones I believed that my creative and my sony MP3 players were almost identical in sound quality. Now my creative MP3 players are retired as the Sony has vastly superior sound. The new headphones in question also give a much warmer sound than my previous ones, it is part of their characteristics, some will like it, some won't, it's down to personal taste.

    It will usually be mastered onto DAT or something with a much wider frequency response and bit depth than CD or Vinyl like you mention later on.

    This is where I disagree with most audio purists. As I mention in the previous post when mixing a track you have to take into account what most people will be listening to the end result on. This is why a good engineer will not only use the flat monitor speaker, but also one or two cheaper sets of speakers to make sure it sounds great on any system. The average listener will generally crank the bass boost to it's highest setting the audio engineer will compensate for this in the mix. This is why speakers aimed for studio's are as close to flat as they can be, but speakers aimed for general listening will have a frequency response that is designed to be more pleasant to listen to.

    I was once in a studio with a friend who was mixing some Drum n' Bass tracks he'd made. He was getting so carried away with the amount of bass the high quality studio monitors could produce that when he took it to listen to in his car, 5 mins later he needed a whole new set of speakers because he had the bass boost on full in his car.

    Whilst I do appreciate being able to hear everything the Musician/Producer intended, you can still hear all that with good enough equipment whether the sound is warm or clinical. I also believe that it's not so much about accuracy as it is clarity. the clearer, more defined the sound, the better quality. a certain amount of accuracy is important but when you take into account that every surface has different acoustic properties, i.e. will reflect/absorb sounds in different ways, it is imposible to recreate the exact environment and acoustics of just one studio where a record was made, let alone thousands of others, trying to do so would be futile, you'd never actually get the time to really enjoy the music.

    Another point where I think a lot of musicians will agree is that the part that stirs human emotion and makes music so important to our race is the music itself and the soul and emotion it creates and the way it expresses things that mirror our own lives. This can be communicated just as easily whatever format or sound quality you hear it on. I remember enjoying music just as much on cassette tapes as I do now on high quality equipment. Don't get me wrong, now I have the better equipment I find new reasons to enjoy and appreciate the music and I wouldn't go back to cassettes unless I had to, but the essence of the music is still there.


    There are many pro's and cons to either format, with Vinyl you get 20% crosstalk between the stereo channels so the soundstage isn't as wide but you do get the full analogue signal. I wouldn't say CD's are compressed in the traditional way, the difference is when you digitise a signal you get a certain amount of steps between the points where the samples are taken, hence the sample rates you mention below. But again format is down to personal preference and subjective to what the listener is used to. Vinyl itself colours the sound, often giving it a warmer feel that is different to the sound of the original master.

    I have to admit, after ripping the 24/96 version of Metallica's Black album form their DVD, compressing it to MP3 with the lame codec and listening to tracks back to back with the CD the difference in sound quality is pretty immense.

    Thanks for the link, I didn't realise they were releasing tracks at studio quality now. Hmmm I wonder if they have any Guns n' Roses......
     
    Last edited: 17 Jan 2011
  15. Deders

    Deders Well-Known Member

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    Probably because the main advances in soundcards these days are to do with the quality of the audio reproduction which can't be represented soley by figures and stats, a lot of it is subjective and down to the listener so audiophile cards will get reviewed in a similar fashion to how audiophile hi-fi equipment is reviewed.
     
  16. murraynt

    murraynt Well-Known Member

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    I can't seem to find any test tracks, would you mind pointing me in the right direction :sigh:
     
  17. Eiffie

    Eiffie New Member

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    I had a X-FI Extreme Music Card in my 2nd to last pc that I built a few years back in high school. After a year it started to get some hiss and crackle no matter how much I played around with my audio settings it won't go away. I tried updating my drivers, using a different PCI slot and even giving the card a good dusting with some compressed air but it still gives me some hiss and crackle every now and then. I was very impressed with the sounds quality while it lasted but ever since that card started to act up I've been using my motherboards sounds outputs and I find them quite good for being built onto my motherboard. If I ever built a media center PC I would consider getting another dedicated sound card but for right now, it just doesn't seem worth it. Much better things to spend my money on, like saving up for a new video card upgrade or possibly one of those shiny SSDs. I do find that one or two games don't work well with on-board audio, mainly BFBC2 and Bioshock 2 but every other game on my PC works flawlessly with that setup.
     
  18. nakchak

    nakchak New Member

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    Surely having socketed op amps cant be good for signal path, even if you plump for a pricey "audiophile" op amp (read over priced gold sticker on stock op amp, and we aint really talking about the complexities of a cpu here so batch variation is fairly minimal) it will still be going into a 2p socket... seems like a load of marketing bs to me, certainly in a consumer peice of kit like this

    then again the sort of person who would buy into that would also buy into the magic power cable nonsense as well... http://sound.westhost.com/cables.htm
     
  19. Cleggmeister

    Cleggmeister Of reasonable knowledge...

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    http://www.linnrecords.com/linn-downloads-testfiles.aspx

    There's a ton of Studio Master music out there, largely helped by The Beatles releasing their entire catalogue last year on a USB stick in 24bit. One of the best purchases I've ever made. A lot of other music is available directly from artists, labels and by ripping DVDA's. I hope this method of "consuming" music gains more traction this year and illustrates that people want a higher quality option than iTunes or whatever...
     
  20. Cleggmeister

    Cleggmeister Of reasonable knowledge...

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    Deders, I agree with some of your points (you're at the recording end of the chain, an area I have great respect for but not my area of expertise), however from a playback point of view (my area of expertise) I do maintain my position. Better sound comes from more accurate playback, which in turn comes from better product design and engineering.

    However, I'm mindful that the "hifi industry" is on it's knees at present, largely because it became inaccessible and elitist. Part of my role at Linn is to develop our retail network so that we attract rather than frighten people who want to enjoy their music at the highest levels of quality.

    As an aside, anyone interested in this field is welcome to contact me directly (apologies for hijacking this thread). I'd be delighted to arrange factory tours and demonstrate how British design, engineering and manufacturing is still leading the world. Please PM me or email me at george.clegg@linn.co.uk if you're interested. Deders - you may be interested to meet our recording engineers and record label management - their work is probably the most groundbreaking at present with the studio quality formats.

    Again, apologies for the thread hijack! Over and out. :)
     
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